Raised to Run

Everybody has a story about how they started running as a sport. Mine started young. I began running road races when I was 8 years old growing up in Southern Indiana. My father Bill Freeze would get up on Saturday mornings and enter the local races of the 1980s. His example and love for running is why I am a runner today. He started taking my sisters and me along with him to races from the time we were in strollers.

At first, we ran the kids “fun runs.” Looking back, I still think there was an energy and excitement to those Saturday mornings that is better than any party or concert or club. Plus, a race was my first brush with fame! I remember meeting a local TV news anchor, the beautiful Jackie Hays (now retired from WAVE-TV) in Louisville. She was so nice and even took a photo with us.

After years of running with my age group, I eventually got a number and joined my Dad in the 5Ks… and then 10Ks… and then my first Mini Marathon in 1983. It was such a thrill to run along side my Dad in the races. I grew up loving to run. In a time where there were not many sports for girls, I was taught a love of physical fitness that I have had my entire life. Here are me and my sisters with Jackie Hayes.

Amy Freeze family

My Dad was usually a “middle of the packer” but that didn’t keep him for admiring the guys that won the races. He met many of them and had his photo with them. And for many years, a personally autographed poster of Bill Rodgers hung in my father’s home office. “Boston Billy” is still the only American born (Hartford, CT) US Citizen to have won the NYC Marathon. I think I knew his name before I was able to write my own!

Bill Rodgers 1979 NYC Marathon

Bill Rodgers 1979 NYC Marathon

Rodgers was the King of the Marathon boom of the 70s. Track & Field News ranked Rodgers #1 in the world in the marathon in 1975, 1977 and 1979. Of the 59 marathons Rodgers ran, 28 were run under 2:15. In all he won 22 marathons in his career. My dad tells the story of meeting Bill Rodgers in the early 1980s in Louisville KY at a Cherokee Road Runners 10K Race in Iroquois Park — where Rodgers actually placed 2nd. He finished behind a young man in his 20s. When asked why he lost, Rodgers replied, “this is a sport of fitness and he was fitter than I was today.”

The summer after my first Mini Marathon my Dad sent me to camp to learn how to run better. I attended a running camp put on by the legendary Swag Hartel.

Rare Video of Swag Hartel in 1983 Mini Marathon
Rare Video of Swag Hartel in 1983 Mini Marathon

At Swag’s running camp, I joined other preteens learning form, how to run sprints, drinking just enough water before races and how to choose the right shoes. I still think about the tips Swag taught me during that camp:

  • Form – holding my fists gentle enough to carry an egg!
  • Sprints – sprints can be incorporated into any run… it’s called tempo training
  • Water- drink the day before a race, sip on race day
  • Shoes- ALWAYS get them at a Running Store so you have the right size

I ran Middle School and then High School Cross Country with my Coach Robert Calbert. We traveled all over the State of Indiana to attend meets. I loved running and my teammates. When I was a senior, two of my sisters and I made up half of our high school cross country team. I didn’t win many races but looking back, the most important victory was learning to run.

JHS Cross Country Team 1992 Coach Robert Calbert

JHS Cross Country Team 1992 Coach Robert Calbert

Running is a habit that I have had throughout my life. Doing it I have found some of my fondest friends. Training for races, I have learned to cope and endure. Competing I have been able to travel and see great places. And running has given me humility time and time again.

“If you run enough marathons, you’ll learn that the race can humble you. If you’ve been humbled, you can go on to greater glories.”
Bill Rodgers

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